United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
JOSEPH A. and GURLENE BLANKENSHIP, Plaintiffs,
BAKER FOODS, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ANNEMARIE CARNEY AXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Gurlene Blankenship fell over a floor mat while shopping in a
Piggly Wiggly grocery store operated by Defendant Baker
Foods, Inc. (“Baker”). (Doc. 4 at 2-3). Mrs.
Blankenship and her husband, Joseph, allegedly suffered
injuries as a result of this fall and filed suit against
Baker to recover damages. (Id. at 6-7). In the
amended complaint, the Blankenships allege that the floor mat
located at the store exit had not been properly laid, causing
Mrs. Blankenship to trip and fall. (Id. at 3-5). The
parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which
have been fully briefed. (Doc. 30; Doc. 36).
reasons explained below, the court GRANTS IN
PART and DENIES IN PART Baker's
motion for summary judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must first
determine if the parties genuinely dispute any material
facts, and if they do not, whether the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
A disputed fact is material if the fact “might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and
a dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Rule 56 standard also applies when addressing cross-motions
for summary judgment and the court must review each motion
separately to determine whether either party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. United States v.
Oakley, 744 F.2d 1553, 1555 (11th Cir. 1984)
(“Cross-motions for summary judgment will not, in
themselves, warrant the court in granting summary judgment
unless one of the parties is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law on facts that are not genuinely disputed.”).
January 22, 2016, Joseph and Gurlene Blankenship visited
Alabama to attend a family member's funeral. (Doc. 32-2
at 9). After the service, Mr. and Mrs. Blankenship traveled
to Childersburg and stopped at a Piggly Wiggly to purchase
groceries. (Id. at 9-10). With their purchases made,
the Blankenships proceeded toward the exit. (Id. at
10-11). Mrs. Blankenship turned her attention to sale items
located near the exit and tripped on a floor mat, causing her
to fall against a set of automatic sliding doors. (Doc. 4 at
6; Doc. 32-2 at 10). Mrs. Blankenship alleges that she fell
as a result of a “puck” in the edge of the mat on
the floor. (Doc. 32-2 at 19-20). Prior to the fall, Mrs.
Blankenship did not look down or notice any irregularities in
the mat. (Id. at 19). As a result of her fall, Mrs.
Blankenship claims to have suffered severe injuries to her
spine and right shoulder. (Doc. 4 at 6).
hours before Mrs. Blankenship fell, a Baker employee mopped
the floor next to the store exit. (Doc. 32-4 at 3-5). Once he
finished mopping, the employee returned to the floor mat and
used his right foot to straighten it, “making sure
everything was stable where it was at.” (Id.
at 6). Although the employee testified that nothing about the
floor mat's condition warranted taking additional
precautions (id. at 10), he acknowledged the
possibility that the “puck” in the rug could have
been present at the time Mrs. Blankenship fell (id.
preserved a video surveillance tape of the incident and
produced a copy to Mrs. Blankenship along with its initial
disclosures. (Doc. 32-2 at 19; Doc. 11 at 1-2). Neither Mrs.
Blankenship nor Mr. Blankenship noticed a defect in the floor
mat while inside the store, but both identified a small
“puck” while reviewing video footage months
later. (Doc. 32-3 at 6; Doc. 32-2 at 19). Mrs. Blankenship
further testified that she would have “probably”
noticed the floor mat's condition had she looked down.
(Doc. 32-2 at 19).
January 1, 2017, the Blankenships filed this action in the
Circuit Court of Talladega County, Alabama. (Doc. 1 at 17).
Baker subsequently removed this case to federal court based
on diversity jurisdiction. (Id. at 2). The
Blankenships amended their complaint to correctly designate
“Baker Foods, Inc.” as a defendant. (Doc. 4 at
1). The parties' motions for summary judgment are
currently before the court.
amended complaint alleges the following claims against Baker:
negligence (Count I); willful and wanton conduct (Count II);
negligent training, retention, and supervision (Count III);
and spoliation of evidence (Count IV). (Id. at
7-10). Mr. Blankenship also brings a loss of consortium claim
derivative of his wife's injuries. (Id. at 6).
Baker moved for summary judgment on all counts of the amended
complaint. (Doc. 31). The Blankenships moved for summary
judgment on Counts I, II, and III of their amended complaint.